A small hamlet, Bogam, located on the border of Pulwama and Budgam districts is known as "mini Punjab" for its high-quality vegetables. Besides meeting local demands, trucks loaded with vegetables from the village and its adjoining areas reach various cities in north India changing the fortunes of the villagers.
In this picturesque village, which is 17 km away from Srinagar city, local and non-local labourers are busy packing fresh vegetables like green collards (haakh), cauliflower, brinjal, radish, capsicum, garlic, cucumber, spinach, carrot and different varieties of peas in big bags which are dispatched to local mandis as well as outside the state every day. "For us, these vegetables are cash crops that fetch us money round the year. An average family makes ₹1.5 to ₹2.5 lakh by selling vegetables," said Mohammad Sadiq, who was loading bags of carrots in a truck placed close to the village stream. "Here villagers love to cultivate vegetables instead of apples and paddy as they see vegetables as a good cash crop. Some earn more than five lakhs from vegetable cultivation," he added.
As per the 2011 census, Bogam Bat Pora village is located in Chadoora tehsil of Budgam district with a total geographical area of 258.6 hectares and has a total population of 3,742. Apart from locals, many non-locals, mostly from Bihar and north Indian states, could be seen working in vegetable fields.
"We get vegetables from nearby fields and then after washing pack them in polythene and gunny bags. This has been our routine for almost 10 months," said a labourer.
For some households, vegetable cultivation is the only source of their income. "Earlier very few people were inclined towards vegetable cultivation but when people started earning good money, more and more people turned to vegetable cultivation. Even villagers have fixed greenhouses to meet the requirements of their customers in winter months," said Mohammad Sultan, another vegetable grower.
"Cultivating vegetables is the main source of economy for us. We have been cultivating all types of vegetables and each crop is ready in three months.
People here don't prefer horticulture or other agriculture-related activities. Because the vegetable industry is booming and rates are attractive in the market," said Bashir Ahmad, a resident of adjoining Nobugh village.
Chief agricultural officer, Budgam, Tafazul Madni said Budgam villages are known for vegetable cultivation. "People here grow various types of vegetables, including exotic ones. I remember we sent our green peas to Gujarat and earned a good revenue. Every day trucks loaded with vegetables are dispatched to different states."
Madni said that the agriculture department is providing every sort of help to the farmers like fertilisers and high-quality seeds, besides technical advice. "Not only this village in Budgam, but we also have many pockets where farmers have a good yield of different varieties of vegetables," he said.
An official of the agriculture department said, "Exports fetch good money to farmers and now many youths are inclined towards vegetable farming. Not only do they earn for themselves but also create job opportunities for others."
6,400 hectares under vegetable cultivation in Budgam
More than 6,400 hectares of land is under vegetable cultivation in Budgam and last year 20,952 metric tonnes of vegetables were cultivated in the district fetching more than 52 crores as revenue.